Nearly a dozen concerned property owners who will be displaced by the proposed Monroe Bypass attended a meeting in Stallings on Aug. 14 to learn their rights in negotiating with the North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT).
Attorneys from the N.C. Eminent Domain Law Firm hosted the meeting, which was held across the street from the northernmost part of the proposed 19.7-mile highway designed to ease congestion on US 74 between I-485 and Marshville.
Attorneys Stan Abrams and Jason Campbell spoke to residents and took questions, consulting with some about their individual concerns before and after the meeting.
The NCDOT has begun right-of-way activities, which include appraising and making offers on land that will be needed for construction purposes, for the project. The proposed route will likely impact nearly 100 homes and 50 businesses.
Right-of-way agents for the NCDOT are expected to start making offers to land owners in the northernmost part of the project, in towns like Stallings and Indian Trail, within the month. Much of the land in the southern part of the project has already been acquired and some of those in attendance at the meeting had been contacted. One couple has been made an offer but hasn’t yet responded.
Abrams and Campbell, who were offering their services to attendees for a fee based only on money they are able to get clients above the initial NCDOT offer, warned land owners about trusting the government’s first offer and informed them of their right to negotiate past that. Both attorneys only work on right-of-way issues like the ones the Monroe Bypass has created.
“If you’re having a heart problem, you see a cardiologist,” said Abrams, who used to work alongside Campbell for the NCDOT on the other side of the issue. “Some of the issues you’re dealing with may not be obvious to you. You need to speak with someone who knows the area and does this all the time.”
Some residents at the meeting were upset that they have been in limbo for a decade in some cases as the proposed bypass has fought through legal cases and other obstacles. One former business owner was simply concerned with whether or not the project would ever get off the ground.
“They’ve been telling me since 2004 that they will be coming to talk to me next week,” the man said. “I closed my business last year because I thought this was going to happen.”
The Southern Environmental Law Center has filed a lawsuit against the NCDOT and Federal Highway Administration in an attempt to stop the project for environmental reasons. They were successful with their first attempt in 2012 but the court overturned that decision in May and the NCDOT has been moving forward with preconstruction plans ever since.
The SELC has said that they plan to file an injunction to halt construction as soon as NCDOT gets the environmental permits they need to begin, but at the meeting Campbell was skeptical that anything could stop them from building the road at this point.
“They’re still fighting, but I don’t think they’re going to win this time,” he said. “There’s no longer a high chance that they’re going to be able to stop (the bypass).”
Tim McDowell, a Monroe resident, has already been told he will lose his entire property. Since then he has been waiting to find out when and if it will happen. He was recently laid off and does not want to look for a new job until he is able to move.
McDowell has attended similar meetings in the past and already knew most of the things that Abrams and Campbell spoke about, but had showed up hoping for an update on when the process would begin for his property. He said someone representing NCDOT came to his house two weeks before the meeting and said someone would be out to do an appraisal soon but he hadn’t heard anything since then.
“There’s no other choice but to sit and wait. I don’t know what else to do,” McDowell said. “I don’t know when we’re going to hear from them, but we’ve pretty much got our lives on hold until then.”